With two weeks to go until I blow out 30 birthday candles I was as horrified as I was inspired by a video I saw on TED talks: Why 30 is not the new 20. Meg Jay delicately explains why the twenties are in fact the ‘defining decade’ and wasting time with the wrong partners or in the wrong jobs with the excuse of ‘It’s fine, 30 is the new 20’ only results in wasting valuable time.

Obviously, it would have been great if I had received these words of wisdom 10 years ago, but I didn’t and I have 2 weeks to try to put some of Meg’s wise words into action.  N.B Anyone who read the blog I wrote this time last year on the things I needed to do before I’m thirty, please note that I have achieved none of them. Nada… actually, we got a dog, but apart from that, I haven’t done anything else. I’ve been busy, ok?!

Meg, is an actual psycho-therapist, not some random freelancer with a column in a woman’s weekly… so I’m more inclined to presume her angle is somewhat credible, and she gives a good argument. Our culture and media have decided to write off the twenties. The decade she describes as ‘defining’. I’d agree with that, everything is happening later. By the time my parents were my age, they had two kids, a house, direction… a settled, adult, family life.  Nowadays, the average age of a first time home buyer is 35, a significant percentage of which, move back in with the parents to save money for a deposit (that’s if they ever left). Adults everywhere are reclaiming their youth, years of which, ironically, was wasted wishing to be older. Fake ID, underage drinking, padded bras… And when adulthood comes to slap us all in the face, we are, like most teenagers are naturally inclined to do of most things, ignoring it.

This is the danger. Twenty-somethings are blissfully unaware, presuming that it’s perfectly acceptable to test out a few jobs, partners, flat shares etc, thinking they have years to sort themselves out for real. What we are doing is wasting the most important and transformative decade of adulthood. Here are some interesting facts highlighted in the talk:

80% of life’s most defining moments happen before the age of 35. The first 10 years of a career has an exponential impact on your earning potential in later life. The brain has its final growth spurt in our twenties and our personality changes in our twenties. At 28, fertility reaches it peak and by 35 things can get tricky.

I was always told that the 30’s are the best years.  I was never sure if that’s what people said to make me feel better, or because they were older and just being positive about the inevitable gravitas of old age. These last few months, I have embraced this as a concept, not that I’ve had much choice!) but with my third decade coming to a close, I was ready to embrace, what I was told was going to be, the best years of my life. Well, now this has thrown that of the water! If you write off your 20’s, that means you have to get EVERYTHING done in your 30’s.  I’ve just come back from Glastonbury, I am definitely feeling older, and that’s a lot of pressure to put on someone missing the vibrancy of a twenty-something’ to successfully pull off!

The advice on the video to get some identity capital. What she means is that you need to do things that add value, explore but make it count. Internships, working abroad, invest in yourself. She also suggests looking outside of your ‘urban tribe’. By hanging around with people your own age in your area limits your ability to think outside of the box. That has an impact on where you live, what you do for a job, how you think and how you behave. She also points out that you pick your family, so don’t waste time with someone because you might end up marrying the wrong one if you make the ‘I’ve turned 30, you’ll do’ mistake.

I’m not saying I wrote my 20’s off. I didn’t. I do think there’s a lot of pressure to have achieved certain things and ticked off a significant number of boxes from the ‘life list’ as 30 has become a pinnacle milestone in adulthood. But there’s no way you can make it there, without using your twenties in the best way you can. The last thing I want to happen on my birthday is look back and say ‘What was I doing? What was I thinking?’

I have two weeks to take Meg’s advice and if you have a little more time on your hands than I do, I suggest you watch the video, take notes and don’t allow yourself to be defined by the things you didn’t do.

Why 30 is not the new 20